Recently on Facebook, Duy Tano of the Comics Cube listed his overall ranking of every movie in the MCU based on his personal enjoyment rather than objective quality. He also challenged his followers to do the same. How could I resist?
18. Thor: The Dark World
There's still lots to admire about this film (mainly Hiddleston and Hemsworth), but the drama of the finale is undermined by the humour, Christopher Eccleston is buried under make up and given very little to work with, and honestly, it's a little bit dull.
17. Avengers: Age of Ultron
I really enjoyed Tony Stark's continuing character development, and James Spader is always fun, but the Vision is farted into life fully formed, and Ultron's motives are sketchy. This is probably the only MCU film that fails at juggling multiple characters and plot threads at the same time.
16. Doctor Strange
This film has a great cast and is pretty enjoyable overall, but it suffers from a weak villain and Strange's education in the mystic arts seems rushed.
Like Doctor Strange this film feels quite slight when compared to other MCU films, but there's something about it that's made me watch it multiple times since seeing it in the cinema. I think it's all down to how much I love Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy
This film did extremely well to make me care about a bunch of characters that I couldn't give two shits about in the comics. It's loads of fun, and if it wasn't for the fact that it's got one of the most boring villains in the MCU then it would be higher up this list.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
GOTG2 is lots of hilarious fun and unlike the first Guardians film it has a superb baddie in Kurt Russell's Ego the Living Planet. It's a mark of the quality of this film, and of Marvel Studios as a whole, that they could spin off a film about the original, more obscure Guardians (Starhawk, Martniex etc), and everyone would go and watch it, and probably love it, including me.
This film really feels like a Jack Kirby comic brought to life, and it gave us the MCU's greatest villain, Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Thor made the MCU a much bigger, more fantastic place and it would probably be a lot higher if I were a bigger fan of Thor as a character.
11. The Incredible Hulk
I've always felt that this film has been seriously underrated. Okay, so Mark Ruffalo ended up giving us a more interesting take on Bruce Banner, but Edward Norton is still pretty great, William Hurt is a brilliant General Ross, and I've always felt it's a shame that Liv Tyler hasn't been seen in the MCU since. The Abomination's a bit boring, but overall the film successfully combines the tone of the comic and the 70s TV series. Like the TV series the focus is on Banner's life on the run, but we still get to see Hulk throw tanks around.
10. Black Panther
This film shows us a world like nothing we've seen in the MCU before. Everything looks amazing and every character feels rich and multi-layered. Killmonger is definitely one of the most interesting villains in the MCU, to the point where it's almost hard to think of him as a villain. The humour is all in perfect balance with the action and the drama. I could have done with more of Andy Serkis' Klaue though, but only'cos I'm a sucker for an OTT baddie.
9. Iron Man 2
I know I'm going to get in trouble for putting this film above Black Panther, and you're right, objectively Black Panther is better. But I just can't get enough of Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 continues Stark's character development and introduces loads of really fun characters. It's also the first film to really start to open up the MCU into the huge, diverse place it is today. All this and Garry Shandling too.
8. Thor Ragnarok
This is the funniest Marvel film of the lot. The comic timing of the entire cast is spot on and the action is epic. Literally my only complaint is that *SPOILERS* the Warriors Three are taken out so casually and brutally. But having said that, their deaths do serve to hammer home what an evil shit Cate Blanchet's Hela really is.
7. Captain America: Civil War
The fact that this film furthers Tony Stark's story would have ensured that it got in my Top Ten, even it didn't also feature Black Panther, Giant Man and Spidey. Despite being visually unimpressive Zemo is one of the MCU's most interesting villains and I also enjoyed how much Hawkeye felt like his comic book counterpart in this film. My favourite thing about Civil War however is how, like the comic on which it's based, it manages to make both Cap and Tony's points of view "right". Everyone picks a side watching this film, but you're asked to genuinely think about which side you're picking.
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
This has to be one of the best superhero origin movies ever, it manages to encapsulate everything great about Cap so perfectly. Also, every single cast member is a joy to watch. I never would have imagined in a million years that Peggy Carter would end up being one of my favourite on-screen Marvel characters. Watching Cap winning the respect of Tommy Lee Jones is just wonderful, and I wish they'd bring Hugo Weaving's Red Skull back, he was so good.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is a top class action film with a '70s conspiracy thriller vibe to it, and Cap's attempts to reach Bucky give it a real emotional hook. The film also uses the characters of Cap and Nick Fury to say some pretty interesting things about where America is today. The fight scene in the lift and the way the filmmakers have realised Arnim Zola are both strokes of genius. Objectively this is probably the best Marvel film.
4. The Avengers
This film is such a remarkable achievement. It juggles all those diverse characters and strong personalities and does them all justice (except maybe Hawkeye, but who cares). It furthers every characters' personal story arc. It tells a compelling and coherent story in its own right. It's full of witty, quotable dialogue. It even manages to include everything on the fanboy-wish-list (e.g. Hulk vs Thor!!!). I've watched this film so many times and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.
3. Iron Man 3
This is one of the few Marvel Studios films that feels like they let the director really just be themselves and make their kind of film. As a result this is an amazing Shane Black film as well as an amazing Marvel film. Tony's character continues to grow and the way the film deals with the emotional consequences of The Avengers is intelligent, compelling, and unique. Where else have we ever seen a superhero suffering panic attacks after fighting aliens? It's such a plausible and human reaction for a character to have to the way the MCU has grown since the first Iron Man film. The way the film uses the idea of the Mandarin as an amalgam of all America's worst fears is as hilarious as it is clever. But the best thing about the film is the way *SPOILERS* Guy Pearce's villain actually ended up being the MCU's take on the Melter!
2. Spider-Man Homecoming
I was very apprehensive about this film. Due to the high school setting I was worried that Tom Holland's Peter Parker would end up being more like Miles Morales in his characterisation. I love Miles, but he needs his own film one day, and if they're going to have Peter Parker in a film then he needs to actually be Peter Parker. I needn't have worried, Peter's character is more spot-on in this than he ever was in the Macguire and Garfield films. The main difference between Peter and Miles is that Miles is inexperienced but inherently noble, whereas Peter is a bit of an arsehole. Don't get me wrong, Peter's a really good guy, but he's also capable of selfishness, arrogance, and hot-headedness. What makes him a hero is that no matter how he screws up he always picks himself up, takes responsibility and in the end, does the right thing. This film captured that beautifully. On top of that it's very funny, it feels like a great high school film as well as great superhero film, and Michael Keaton is absolutely fantastic. His Vulture is scary, but also sympathetic and likeable.
1. Iron Man
I've always loved Tony Stark as a character, and in Robert Downey Jr. we have possibly the most perfectly cast lead in a superhero franchise since Christopher Reeve first put his red cape on. I often see people online talking as if Downey Jr's performance was a complete reinvention of the character. I see people saying "Downey Jr is just playing himself". Well, Downey Jr may very well be playing himself, but as far as I'm concerned he's definitely playing the Tony Stark that Stan Lee, David Michelinie, Denny O' Neil, and Kurt Busiek wrote too. Everything I loved about Stark in the Iron Man comics I grew up with is here, brought to life.
Even if this film hadn't spawned one of the most successful Hollywood franchises ever, a revival in the popularity of the superhero genre that shows no signs of abating, and an unprecedented shared cinematic superhero universe, I would still love it to bits. It's a story of a selfish person becoming a hero, something that speaks to everyone. The cast are perfect, the story's perfect, the dialogue's perfect, and I can watch it again and again and again. But like all great films it also tells us a lot about the time and context in which it was made. It represents the USA stopping and taking a long hard think about who it wants to be, and its role in the world in the 21st Century. America's identity crisis has grown more dramatic since 2008, and it's still trying to figure itself out today, just like Tony Stark.